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PATTI'S PET GORILLA by Pat Rhoads Mauser; illustrated by Diane Palmisciano (Atheneum: $10.95; 45 pp.; ages 6-9).

September 20, 1987|KRISTIANA GREGORY

Besides lunch and recess, one of the best things to a Second Grader is show-and-tell, an event not for the faint-hearted. This is the moment children live for, a chance to unearth disgusting bugs or household items you thought they'd never find. It's a chance to talk about summer vacation or, as Patti does in this funny early reader, tell a whopper the kids will never forget.

It's a typical morning before school as Patti rushes around the mess of her room trying to find something, anything , to show in class. When the teacher calls on her, Patti stands up empty-handed, her mind racing in panic because she wants so badly to impress her friends with "something terrific." Then in a flash of inspiration she invents a pet gorilla named Bob who swings from her canopy bed. Of course!

The consequences of her tale begin to catch up with her as the kids grill her no end. When the class takes a walking field trip around the neighborhood and everyone thinks they see Bob in the window of Patti's house, she realizes there's only one way out. How she untangles the mess is brave and funny, as well as a good example for youngsters who might find themselves in a similar pickle. "Stories have a way of getting bigger," the teacher says gently.

Early readers who have graduated from picture books will love this. Six chapters with large type and Palmisciano's neat pencil drawings make this a perfect transition so they'll feel they're reading "a real book!" (which they are). Suspense is light and, as are the characters, real enough to make this an honest page-turner.

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